of aberdeen. 2009
In 2007 I bought a wooden box from a car-boot sale in
Preston. The box was locked and didn’t come with a key.
With the help of a locksmith I eventually got the box open
(it took me months to get round to doing it). Inside the
box was a shallow tray full of old papers, postcards, and a
couple of buttons.
Under the tray, packed with shredded paper, were the study
skins of 4 beautiful wrens.
Two of the wrens are from Yorkshire; two are from Scotland.
The two from Scotland are labelled differently, with a
local name of Righ Fhladaigh
Since opening the box I’ve tried to research where they are
from and who might have collected them.
found in the box:
the four wren study skins in the box:
one of the yorkshire wrens:
In my research I found that Fladaigh Chuain is a small
island off the west coast of Scotland (there are various
spellings of the island name) and that Righ Fhladaigh is
King of Fladaigh.
In European folklore the wren is the king of the birds – so
I think this is where the name originates from perhaps.
I have a friend who is a keen birder and he suggested I
contact Scottish Natural Heritage about my find, and they
passed me onto the Scottish Island Trust based in Glasgow.
There are a number of sub-species of Wren found in the
islands off northwest Europe:
T.t zetlandicus from Shetland; T.t fridariensis from Fair
Isle; T.t hirtensis from St Kilda; T.t borealis from Faroe
and T.t islandicus from Iceland.
Dr Emily Brooke from The Scottish Island Trust became
interested in the Fladaigh Wren because of the different
sub-species and organised a trip to the island in spring
2009 to document the number of breeding wrens, take
measurements of the birds and record their songs for future
of Fladaigh Chuain showing the location of the six breeding
pairs of wrens:
She found 6 breeding pairs of wrens on the island. She
caught 8 of the birds and measured six morphological
characters: wing chord, tail length, tarsus length, bill
length, and bill depth and width. She also made a number of
emails from Dr Emily Brooke:
the wing and tail measurements have displayed differences
with the mainland wren, but the sonograms are more
interesting as they show a number of differences between
the Fladaigh wren and the mainland wren. Could the Fladaigh
Wren be a new sub-species?
sonograms showing the differences between the UK mainland
wren and the Fladaigh wren:
2009 I attended a symposium at the University of Aberdeen ‘
Listening to Birds’ along with biologists,
conservationists, anthropologists, ethno-musicologists,
composers, an artist and a sound recordist. I was
interested in documenting how they reacted to the wren
story and I found their responses fascinating.
A number of the participants were really helpful and gave
me tips and advice about experts I should contact, places I
should take the wren box to and books I should read. They
also talked about the folklore of the wren and stories that
related to their own professions.
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